Sunday, November 24, 2013

Review - "Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor"

Warning: This review will contain spoilers. Viewing "The Day of the Doctor" before going any further is highly recommended

50 years have culminated in a truly monumental television event. Doctor Who has changed dramatically since its debut in 1963, yet "The Day of the Doctor" the 50th anniversary celebratory episode of the show managed to honour the show wonderfully. But, was the episode worth the wait for Whovians across the world?

U.N.I.T (United Nation's Intelligence Taskforce) is in need of the Doctor (Matt Smith). When he and Clara (Jenna Coleman) arrive at the National Gallery, they discover what's afoot. Something - or someone - has escaped the paintings. Soon the Doctor discovers that there's a link to the Time War, the greatest conflict in the universe's history in which the Time Lords and the Daleks were annihilated.

The Doctor has been running all his life from his actions during the war - it was he who wiped out his entire race. The Eleventh Doctor will have to team up with his Ninth (John Hurt) and Tenth (David Tennant) incarnations to save the universe from an almost indescribable threat.

For months, writer and showrunner Steven Moffat has boasted that "The Day of the Doctor" will change the show forever. Despite the fact that his boasts sounded profound, they were not unfounded. "The Day of the Doctor" has changed the show - by adding an entirely new Doctor! In any other case, I don't know how I'd feel about such a dramatic change, but Moffat has managed to pull this off really well. Whether the inclusion of the so-called War Doctor (as played by John Hurt) will change the Doctor's numbering system hasn't really been determined yet. John Hurt was probably the most unique aspect of the episode, and he did a truly fantastic job holding his own with Matt Smith and David Tennant in all their scenes together.

The Three Doctors
"The Day of the Doctor" also did a nice job of paying homage to the show's previous fifty years. The episode opened with the original title sequence as well as a duplicated opening shot of a constable walking down Totter's Lane and the Coal Hill School. Elsewhere, there were homages to Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethebridge-Stewart, the former head of U.N.I.T, and Susan, the Doctor's grand-daughter. The surprise inclusion was Tom Baker as the museum curator, who may or not have been the Doctor. Despite the fact that Baker said he was involved in the special, I remained rather skeptical, so seeing him involved was nice. The biggest surprise was a brief (and I mean brief) cameo from Peter Capaldi as the next Doctor. Despite the fact that I will miss Matt Smith immensely, seeing Capaldi on screen, albeit only for a short time, made me very excited.

Alas, "The Day of the Doctor" was not perfect. The Zygons, an alien race who had only appeared once before in the show's history, turned up to act as the episode's villains, but they were very underused. Their subplot went almost nowhere, and was never resolved. This was very disappointing, yet the Zygons themselves looked awesome, and I hope they return sooner rather than later in future series. Joanna Page, who had a fairly substantial role as Queen Elizabeth I, was also pretty underwhelming. She didn't really elevate the part any, and came across as a carbon-copy of the comedic queen in the stellar "Blackadder II."

But, a few rotten apples did not spoil the whole bunch. Matt Smith and David Tennant were both excellent (as always) and their chemistry with John Hurt with tremendous. The episode looked amazing, and I can only imagine how it would have looked in 3D on the big screen. I'm sure it would have been quite a sight. "The Day of the Doctor" did exactly what it was supposed to do - honour 50 years of brilliant television and provide an excellent story. I feel as though the episode's final shot - all eleven doctors standing, staring at their home planet Gallifrey will become one of the show's most iconic images. In all, "The Day of the Doctor" gets a 4 out of 5 from me.

***

On a related note, I want to include a short review of "An Adventure of Space and Time," the docudrama documenting the creation of Doctor Who in 1963. The film starred David Bradley as William Hartnell, the actor who played the First Doctor, and he was simply breath-taking. The movie chronicled Hartnell's transformation from a grumpy old man into a universally-loved figure on the show. Brian Cox and Jessica Raine were equally brilliant as Sydney Newman, the creator of the show, and Verity Lambert, the original producer respectively. 

Not only was the docudrama very entertaining and informative (the TARDIS' noise was achieved by running a key across a piece of wire), but it was incredibly moving. The film ended on the day of filming Hartnell's regeneration into Patrick Troughton, and Hartnell's obvious sadness at leaving the show was very moving. In the show's most brilliant moment, Hartnell glances across the TARDIS' console and sees Matt Smith standing on the other side - a symbolic act of connecting all fifty years of the show. Even if this is end for the First Doctor, the show will go on. "An Adventure in Space and Time" was quite brilliant and I award it 4.5 out of 5 stars. Overall, both Doctor Who 50th anniversary celebration stories were "fantastic!"

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